In following the long tradition of the late Furman Bisher, beloved sports editor for the Atlanta Journal/Constitution, some years ago I started a holiday column offering up my feelings of appreciation on Thanksgiving but from a Monroe perspective.         

          Looking back on Monroe over the years and the folks and places I have known and loved, what better time to express my feelings than this season where friends, family and home take center stage.  On this Thanksgiving eve here is what I feel especially thankful for:

·       To the multitude of Monroe folk who have supported, endorsed, helped & organized the newly opened Monroe Cultural & Heritage Museum.  Your donations, contributions, encouragement and dedication to our dream of having a museum to showcase our rich history has become a reality in large part to your efforts and for this I am extremely proud and appreciative.

·       While mentioning the museum I want to express my personal appreciation to Judy Brown Shuford, A.C. Marshall and Bobby Carrell who were among a dedicated group of like-minded folks, whose visionary efforts helped form and create the edifice we know now as the “Monroe Museum”.  Without their devotion to and love of Monroe’s history we would not be where we are today.

·       Two former teachers in the Monroe schools who have attained “living legend” status: Allyne Brown and Kathryn Phillips. For all you gave to the Monroe community through your teaching endeavors and other commitments to make our town a better place to live, I salute you!

·       For having the good fortune of attending and being part of our recent 50th Monroe High School Class of 1965 reunion and seeing so many classmates I had not seen in fifty years.  The love and appreciation of our high school years remains as strong now as it was then when the colors “purple & white” reigned supreme.

·       Remembering and reflecting on the Monroe of the 40’s, 50’s & 60’s when the community was a close-knit and enduring entity when our neighbors were our friends and doors were never locked, when you could always find a parking place downtown and it was fun to shop with merchants you knew and when the telephone was an added source of conversation and the word “telemarketer” had not been invented.

·      Hearing the old chimes ring out on Sunday mornings from Monroe’s First Baptist Church.

·       Before the advent of home freezers, taking all our meats and vegetables to the Monroe Freezer Locker for storage in bins with a key.

·       The old ice house on Marable Street where you could get bags of crushed ice in heavy brown paper bags sealed with a twisted copper band.  And oh, how good the home-made ice cream tasted which came from a churn with the crushed ice cooling it to the freezing mark.

·       The sight and smell of wood smoke coming up from a neighbor’s chimney indicating cold weather was here and how good it felt standing in front of a fireplace after coming in from the cold and getting your rear end warmed.

·       When it is time to “fall back” and it gets dark early making a perfect segue for lighting candles, snuggling under throws and reading a good book.

·       The aroma and taste of sho’ nuff real buttermilk cornbread to eat with your home made vegetable soup.

·       For the “old days” when you could walk into a bank and know all the folks there especially those who handled your account and felt safe knowing they actually cared about your money.

·       Wishing just once more you could see a pile of leaves in someone’s driveway getting ready to burn down to ash and the aroma of burning leaves in the fall.

·       Being able to ride down the street you lived on and know each one of your neighbor’s names.

·       The old, family owned restaurants in Monroe who were opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner, like Charlie Tregone’s Manhattan Cafe, The B & M Café, Hearn’s Café, Stowe’s Lunchroom and Gladney’s Lunchroom.  While these places didn’t offer up the food our refined palates have come to appreciate, the food was good, the service friendly and you felt a sense of community no matter where you ate.

·       The home pick-up & delivery of your clothes & laundry that was offered up by Fambrough’s and Blasingame’s Cleaners.

·       Going to the post office and always having stamps on hand and seldom having to wait in line for help with your postal needs. Also, the post office was a great place to see & visit with your friends.

·       Still appreciating my old desk top Royal typewriter purchased from Monroe Office Supply Company on Broad Street.  Nothing today says sophistication and style like receiving a typed letter (and there are still some who maintain this practice and I salute them!).

·       The fun & excitement of the annual Christmas Parade down Broad Street announcing the official start of the Christmas season always headed by Monroe’s Girls Corps and ending with Santa tossing candy to the youngsters.  Many of us never quite figured out how Santa could slip in and out of town so quietly and many of us wandered around Monroe looking for his sleigh and reindeer!

·       The church hay rides on an old flat-bed truck and the church choirs on similar trucks riding around the residential streets singing carols on a cold winter’s night.

·       Those big old glass lights that adorned our Christmas trees and outdoor greenery.

·       The Walton Circle home of Dr. & Mrs. Philip R. Stewart at Christmas when Kate Stewart’s artistic talent was displayed on their front yard with replicas of caroler’s and the Manger scene.

·       Learning that “retirement” wasn’t as frightening as I thought it would be.

·       Still using a big dictionary to look up words rather than the “spellcheck” on my computer.

·       Continuing to enjoy writing letters by hand to friends and getting a reply in kind and not a computer email.

·       The beauty of sitting in a quiet church contemplating life as the organist plays hymns you have known all your life and you still know the words to the verses.

·       Still having the presence of mind to drive through Monroe and remember where all the buildings you knew as a child were.

·       Remembering and appreciating Louelle & Buddy Conyers, Monroe’s first caterer and Monroe’s “Shoe Shine Man” and appreciating Louelle’s delicious culinary offerings along with that shine Buddy could put on your shoes. No matter how long they have been gone, they continue to be remembered with love and appreciation.

·       Even though I now wear glasses I am still able to read a lot of books and remember what they were about!

·       Monroe’s oldest business, The Walton Tribune, and the sense of community it brings with each issue published and for the good folks there who continue to give me space to record my thoughts and memories in reflecting back on the town and folks from early on who helped create so much of our history.

·       For all of the above I am truly thankful.  Now it is time to celebrate and enjoy the holiday with turkey, dressing and all the trimmings!  May you all have a warm & wonderful Thanksgiving!